Skip to Main Content

Medical Humanities: Home - Medical Humanities

Integrating Arts and Humanities in Health Sciences

Medical Humanities

Health Humanities is the study of the intersection of health and humanistic disciplines (such as philosophy, religion, literature, fine arts), as well as social science research (such as history, anthropology, sociology, and cultural studies) that gives insight to the human condition.

Health Humanities Consortium, 2021

Meaning of Medical Humanities

Why Humanities?

The humanities are a public good which carry any number of values, including but not limited to values of cultural heritage, personal and spiritual development, social knowledge, and historical and aesthetic understandings. Below are quotes from interviewees from a study published in 2015, who discuss their perceptions of humanities' value in societies.

As1: [w]e need the understanding of the humanities, which restores human cooperation and partnership, more than economics or technology.

NA2: The humanities are what keep us human ... : [i.e.] the abilities associated with reading, writing, thinking clearly and communicating with other people. If you can’t relate with other human beings, what is any of this for? ... People are losing touch with each other and it is, paradoxically, getting worse with social media. And the humanities are the secret to maintaining an appreciation for what makes human beings special.

NA12: A world without the humanities is one without value, meaning and a sense of shared community with each other.

LA10: [the] humanities are essential to overcome certain trends that are highly contrary to minimal social stability, e.g. xenophobia, racism, aggressive behaviour, addiction and fanaticism.

Source: Poul Holm, Arne Jarrick, Dominic Scott. 2015. Humanities World Report 2015. p. 19. Palgrave Macmillan: London.

Effects of Health Humanities

Literature and movies are powerful and convincing instruments in medical humanities teaching. They allow an intimate interrelationship with bioethical reflection, the history of medicine and medical epistemology and contribute to producing in medical students an attitude of solidarity with the patients, their families and colleagues. In summary, literary and film narratives are tools for achieving recognition of otherness. 

Dr. Orlando Mejía-Rivera, Universidad de Caldas, Colombia

The health humanities provide insight into the human condition, suffering, personhood, and our responsibility to each other. They also offer an historical perspective on healthcare. Attention to literature and the arts helps to develop and nurture skills of observation, analysis, empathy, and self-reflection—skills that are essential for humane healthcare. 

University of Pittsburgh Center for Bioethics & Health Law

Promote understanding of the experiences of patients, caregivers, and communities as they are shaped in relation to models of disease, illness, health, and wellness.

Goals from the Health Humanities Consortium